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Music Expo successful, but not enough

The WBCN Rock and Roll Expo '85, held last weekend at the Bay Side Exposition Center.

The second annual WBCN Rock and Roll Expo opened early last Saturday morning. Last year's was a great success, and the promoters were promising even more this year. Musically, they came through. The performances were well-produced and arranged. The selection of exhibitors, however, left a little to be desired.

The fault does not lie with WBCN, we think. Rather, the business in the Boston area failed to recognize the power of WBCN to draw a crowd. There were bargains to be found and thousands of purchasers to take advantage of them. Anything on sale was likely to be bought.

Strawberries, a local record store chain, had to set a 50 piece limit on its sale stock. Ken and Dave (of Manufacturers' Marketplace) were present in force to sell their wares, and did well by the looks of it. There is a question, though, in our mind as to how well they followed through on their advertising.

There are more than two stores, however, that cater to the crowd that enjoys WBCN's kind of music. Some were present, others were not. There was a surprising number of beer-selling booths and of political action groups. Also the Army and Air Force had recruiting booths, tentacles grasping at prospective young enlistees. But, there was a lot more room for other booths.

The proportion of interesting to non-interesting booths was unfortunately low. We asked the man at the asbestos removal service why he was at a rock expo and he commented "advertising." It is a shame that other, more relevant, exhibitors didn't appear.

WBCN played its part well. The people behind the scenes as well as the disc-jockeys were on hand to speak to everyone they met.

The booths run by the station were often as crowded as any other booth as listeners collected autographs and spoke with the radio personalities. The music they were playing was especially good and well engineered. They broadcasted live from the Expo which was a sight in itself.

Incidentally, an MIT alumnus, Mike Brody '82 is in charge of the BCiNterface, the radio station's on-line bulletin board system. No, don't jump to conclusions -- he was a Biology major. There's hope for some of us yet.

Overall, the crowd kept mobility down, so there was enough to keep one busy for a while between the main attractions -- the music. The major attraction that morning was Fiona, and her performance was all that we were able to see because of our time constraints; however, WBCN was able to arrange a fantastic selection of musical groups for the Expo, at a price that can't be beat. Also appearing were Angel City, Gary Shane and the Detour, Keel, and Meatloaf.

As word gets around to the dealers the Expo will grow in size. Next year's will probably be even bigger. The Expo was a great diversion for a day or a weekend.

Fiona is a refreshing and energetic performer, a unique fusion of hard rocker and torch singer. In concert, as well as on her debut album, she displays a depth of emotion not normally seen in the hard rock genre.

A virtual unknown until last month, Fiona is already developing a following, as shown by the substantial crowd that came out very early last Saturday afternoon to see her first major performance in Boston. Those people who managed to make it to the show were not disappointed. Fiona gave what can only be described as an outstanding show.

For a performer who had done only three major shows prior to this, she displayed an unusual amount of stage presence. An important aspect of her performance is that she sings to the audience, not at the audience. Watching her, one feels as a part of the event, not merely as a passive viewer.

After beginning with a great tune that is not on the album, she threaded her way through the hard-rocking "Hang Your Heart On Me," and the ballads "Rescue You" and "Over Now." During the "Na Na Song," the audience spontaneously began to sing the chorus along with her. Finally, she concluded with an exciting version of the hit single "Talk To Me."

Fiona delivered her songs flawlessly, with a beautiful, powerful voice. Sound quality was exceedingly good and not overpowering, a departure from the norm of rock concerts. Fiona sounds great live, which indicates that she did not require extensive studio mixing to release her album. The talent is all hers, not that of a recording engineer. On stage, Fiona is a ball of energy, never still, constantly directing deep emotional response into her act.

Of course, she is not alone on stage. Her band is very good in its own right. The guitarist's wailing solos and harmonies, the bassist's heavy bass lines, and the drummer's strong beat complemented Fiona's singing perfectly. The group was rounded out by keyboards and a saxophone, who, while not as conspicuous, contributed extensively to the overall effect.

For those who enjoy hard rock with a soft touch, Fiona should not be missed. She will be appearing again in Boston at the Paradise Theater on May 9.

Ronald E. Becker->

David Watson->